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Monday, 14 September 2015

Local History, Age, Memory and Popular Tradition: Richard Jefferies Explores Oral History in His Village

From a manuscript of 1877, first published in 1948.

Richard Jefferies (1848- 1887) writes:
"I set out in my own village to learn from the unlettered our local history..."

He approaches Mr. Browne, a local farmer, but Mr. Bowne's memory proves to be confused on certain topics.

"Old Betsy would tell you more, perhaps," said Mr. Browne. "They say she's a hundred years old."

They visit the old lady in her cottage.

"She could not tell me the year in which she was born: she calculated her age by the thatch. The house had been new thatched four times since she could remember. She  was a great girl when it was done for the first time, because father fell from the ladder and broke his arm - that she recollected well. Father thatched it twice. Her own husband thatched it the third time, and the fourth was three years ago. I could see it if I liked - 'it were amazing thick.' Mr. Browne and I measured it roughly; we found it between eight and nine feet in thickness. The farmer said a good coat of straw would last twenty years: four coats represented eighty years; add three years since the last thatching, and say the old lady was seven when her father broke his arm, and that would make her ninety."

Jefferies Land: A video on Vimeo

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